There was a time in the not so distant past when many, if not most, publicly held corporations, including the one for which I worked, embraced in their mission statements, codes of conduct and similar pronouncements a responsibility to serve multiple stakeholders: their stockholders, of course, but also their employees as well as customers, suppliers and the community in which they operated. Today, all too many companies, in deed and often in word, articulate a single-minded obligation to serve only their investors by focusing exclusively on profitability.
As a result, we have witnessed corporate down sizings and outsourcing of jobs; restructuring of pension plans or their complete termination; reductions in health care benefits; and wage stagnation in spite of increased productivity. Domestic suppliers have been squeezed or, more often, replaced by cheap foreign sources. Customers seeking service are confronted with automated answering machines and foreign call centers. Environmental concerns are viewed as obstacles to profitability.
At the same time, the senior managers of these enterprises have seen their compensation grow exponentially as a reward for their perceived contributions to the bottom line.
Sadly, what these corporations fail to appreciate is how their obsession with the bottom line is shrinking their markets, both domestic and foreign. The large number of people unemployed, underemployed, afraid of losing their jobs or without the means to pay all their bills perpetuates the present worldwide economic crisis.
Add to this the unwillingness of businesses to pay their fair share of taxes to support education, health care and the infrastructure that is critical to their success. In the end, these self-serving practices endanger the very profitability their practitioners seek to enhance.
We need to return to the earlier model of the corporation as a good citizen. Doing so can help ensure the long-term viability of our free enterprise system.
JAY N. FELDMAN
Port Washington, N.Y., Aug. 27, 2012
The writer is a retired corporate lawyer.
Considering the passage above, write a paper of 5 pages that addresses the following:
1. Discuss Alfred North Whitehead’s statement: “What is morality in any given time and place? It is what the majority then and there happen to like and immorality is what they dislike.” Consider the following questions as guide:
a. Businesses can have ethical standards, but Businesses are not moral agents. Do you agree or disagree?
b. Is it true that the “bottom line” of business is profit and profit alone?
c. In business, are there other less tangible goals that are intrinsic to and just as important as making money?
d. Why should we be moral as individuals?
e. Why should a corporation or organization be moral?
2. How would you apply the first formulation of Kant’s categorical imperative to a Business environment?
Consider deontological ethics, teleological ethics, moral objectivism, and ethical relativism in your argument. Provide at least 3 valid reasons to support your argument. Also, be sure to include the following in your paper:
Identify your argument—or thesis statement—within the introduction of your paper.
Include definitions of utilitarianism, Categorical Imperatives, Process Philosophy, moral relativism, moral absolutism, ethical relativism, moral objectivism, deontological ethics, and teleological ethics.
Consider morality and ethics from the perspective of Alfred North Whitehead’s process philosophy, and Immanuel Kant’s universal categorical imperative. Could you argue that Businesses can have ethical standards, despite the fact that Businesses are not moral agents? Why or why not? Please explain.